By Marc Topkin | Times Staff Writer
The Rays officially launched the Wil Myers era with last week's promotion, and the first impressions have been good, in terms of his bat, defense, all-around athleticism and confidence. As Myers heads home for his first appearance at the Trop on Monday, here are a few things — or a few more things — to know about him:
William Bradford Myers
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Born: Dec. 10, 1990, Thomasville, N.C.
How acquired: From Royals as centerpiece of seven-player December trade, coming to Rays with RHP Jake Odorizzi, LHP Mike Montgomery and INF Patrick Leonard in exchange for RHP James Shields, RHP Wade Davis and, named later, INF Elliot Johnson.
Myers may turn out to be a one-of-a-kind talent at the plate. But his setup and stance — "tall, open and relaxed," as manager Joe Maddon put it — looks an awful lot like that of Evan Longoria. "It's kind of unusual the way Longo stands to set up; I don't know that you'll find another guy, at least in the American League, that starts that way," Maddon said. "And now Wil shows up and it's really highly similar to that. I don't think he ever patterned himself after him, I think it's just coincidence, all coincidence. It's an unusual stance, an unusual way to start. But obviously very effective for both guys." Myers said he noticed the same coincidence: "I don't know that necessarily our swings are the same, but I know we have kind of the same setup before."
Myers is viewed in good company, since he's considered by many folks — including Sports Illustrated editors — as a dead ringer for longtime Braves star OF Dale Murphy, in looks and style. "I've heard that one for a while," Myers said. "No, I've never met him. But he was obviously really good."
Myers claims he doesn't have any favorite number to wear, but he prefers only one, asking Rays equipment/home clubhouse manager Chris Westmoreland for a single-digit assignment. "There's not one specific number I wanted," Myers said. "In high school I wore 2, 8, 23, 4. (And in Durham, 5). I've always had a different one every year." Westmoreland didn't have many choices to offer, with 7 being held by INF Mike Fontenot, who has big-league time but is playing at Triple-A Durham, so 9 it pretty much was. Myers did make a casual inquiry about 4, but bench coach Dave Martinez (left) didn't want to give it up.
* coach; ** in minors
Myers spent much of his time in high school at third base, shortstop and pitcher, but shortly after the Royals drafted him (2009, third round) they decided to try him behind the plate. "I was okay," Myers said, but he didn't mind when the Royals changed plans again and moved him to the outfield starting in 2011. He said the experiment ended for two reasons: He did well enough at the plate that the Royals decided it was wiser to maximize his offense and keep him away from injuries, and because fellow prospect Salvador Perez emerged as their obvious catcher of the future. "I think it was a good move for my career," Myers said, but he wouldn't mind jumping back behind the plate for kicks — or in an emergency (presumably after unofficial third catcher Sean Rodriguez). "Joe (Maddon) already told me, you're our fourth guy, and I'm like, 'Good, I could do it,' " Myers said.
His full name is William, but he has been Wil, with one L, as far back as he can remember. "That's always been the case," he said. "My parents started spelling my name that way, and that's the way it's been." His middle name, Bradford, is his dad's dad's name.
When Myers comes to bat for the first time at the Trop Monday, expect to hear some classic rock as his walkup song: Motley Crue's Kickstart My Heart.
The Myers are native North Carolinians, living in Thomasville — well-known as a furniture center — near Greensboro. Father Eric is a former Marine who works in the service department at a Honda dealer, mom Pam an accountant for the Carolina Container Co. While Eric still looks military fit, Pam was the true athlete. "She played four sports in high school, so that's where I got a lot of it," Wil said. Sixteen-year-old brother Beau is an aspiring ballplayer who plays on the same Dirtbags travel team Wil did.
Myers played soccer, basketball and football growing up but was only serious about baseball and stuck to that once he got to high school. "Growing up, I always wanted to be a baseball player," he said. "That was it." He was a Braves fan, since their games were most accessible in North Carolina. And though he didn't have a favorite player, per se, he liked watching the Braves' Chipper Jones and the Yankees' Derek Jeter. "I thought they played the game the right way," he said.
Look ma, no gloves
Myers is the rare hitter who doesn't wear batting gloves, not even in cold weather. "Never ever," he said. "I've tried them, it's just not the same feel." Not wearing gloves can create blisters and callouses, and also a different look, too. "It just sort of stands out that the bat seems like an extension of his arms," Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said. "We've had guys without batting gloves before — but they seem to have had hairier arms."
Young and restless
At 22 years and 190 days, Myers was two days older than Evan Longoria was for his '08 debut. … The Rays' next youngest position player, Desmond Jennings, is four years older than Myers. … Reliever Jamey Wright is 16 years older than Myers.
Got a minute? Wil Myers
Best meal you can make?
I can't make anything to be honest. I'm not a cook.
Either The Office or Parks and Rec.
Band you'd like to be on stage with?
Lecrae, he's a Christian rapper and I like him a lot.
With a $2.95 million salary, INF Ryan Roberts (top right) is the Rays' highest-paid player at Triple A, and maybe in all of baseball. … If the Rays have an injury and need a lefty bat, one name to keep in mind is INF Vince Belnome, hitting .346 with a .436 on-base percentage at Triple-A Durham. … Principal owner Stuart Sternberg is working hard as chairman of MLB's Diversity Oversight Committee and is confident progress will be made. … Manager Joe Maddon (bottom right) said the opening of the Hazleton One Community Center in his hometown is a good start in bringing together the Hispanic and Anglo segments of his hometown and hopes it becomes a national model.